While the FIA World Rally Championship was contesting Rally Catalunya in Spain, the World Motor Sport Council met in Paris, France and approved the WRC to mandate the use of the FIA Artificial Intelligence Safety Camera (or AISC). The system will center around a forward-facing in-car camera installed to continuously monitor the external environment around a World Rally Car during special stages.
The FIA stated that AISC “will continually scan the special stage and its direct surroundings, identifying the shapes and analyzing the position of spectators in the environment, hence helping to supplement the work undertaken by the FIA Safety Delegate to address unsafe situations.” However, the sport’s international body did not state specifically how the visual monitoring system will be used in practice during rallies.
The need for a camera system built for this purpose has been very apparent for a long time. The world’s best rally drivers might not have to contend with driving through crowded masses of spectators like it’s Rallye de Portugal in the 1980s, a number of notable incidents over past six seasons have pushed spectator safety to the forefront of discussion in international rallying.
Extreme measures had to be taken by the WRC over their concerns regarding the dangerous conditions. Rallye Monte Carlo was forced to shorten a special stage in 2015. This was due to a lack of crowd control when a larger than anticipated number of spectators turned out. Rally Poland was dropped from the schedule after the 2017 season due to the failure of organizers to properly address spectator safety concerns. The Artificial Intelligence Safety Camera seems to be the result of a project initiated by the FIA in 2019 to better observe stage conditions.
The implementation of AISC in 2022 goes hand-in-hand with another huge point of discussion in rallying at the moment, hybridization. The new hybrid powertrains next season could produce up to 500 hp, a large increase from the current power output of 380hp. While a 220-pound weight increase and simplified aerodynamics should tempter any potential increase in speed, having more powerful vehicles on special stages certainly provide another valid reason to be more vigilant.